Friday, 19 September 2003

Why isn't there any TV on TV anymore?

Ever get that feeling that television programming is getting less and less interesting? We all know broadcast viewership is falling - with audience slipping to cable and alternative programming. And the Internet is claiming its share of eyeballs as well.

But there's another culprit. Advertising.

Or, more technically, "non-program messages." The AAAA's (American Association of Advertising Agencies) has conducted studies for years along with the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). Year after year, advertising "clutter" goes up and time dedicated to actual programming has been going down. More recently our friends at CourtTV have conducted a similar study.

While the two sets of numbers don't agree, they both show the same trend. Advertising, promotions and other non-programmatic messages are increasing and starting to wash out programming. Is there any wonder TV ratings are falling and viewers are flipping channels to a greater degree than ever before?

Get this - according to either survey nearly one in four minutes an hour is dedicated to a message other than the programming you're expecting to watch. If you don't like ads, watch the ESPN networks where commercials occur only once every ten minutes or so. If you're an ad junkie, try the Golf Channel where nearly a third of the hour is dedicated to commercial messages.

Clearly, the problem here is not that ad sales at the Golf Channel are so strong that they can't find a place to put all the sponsors. In fact, it's probably the opposite. Too many media sales people sell on price and too many media buyers buy on "measurable" numbers. The result is a commodity-based business that leaves bloody media reps in the wake of tough agency planners and buyers.

What needs to happen to remedy this situation? As I see it, two things are needed:

1) An objective study on the influence of clutter on viewing habits needs to be conducted. Media and advertisers need to understand how clutter really impacts a viewer and his tendency to switch channels and tune messages out;

2) Advertisers need to start considering a "clutter factor" to their television program selections. The price might be great and the ratings where they need to be, but it doesn't matter what the TV is tuned to if the viewer has "tuned out" due to an endless barrage of spots, promos, news breaks, etc.

Tell me what you think. How do we make a difference in television advertising and viewership and save TV from itself? E-mail me and let me know what you think.


Mike Bawden
Brand Central Station

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